A new idea: a monthly post of the latest news from the London coffee scene. Not necessarily a gossip column … more the latest developments on the scene.
Why? Well, one week this month there were four great coffeeshops opening in one week and I am constantly being asked about the new openings and developments on the scene. Great minds often th
Let’s start with the new openings. The first I visited was Curators Coffee Gallery in Fitzrovia. Catherine Seay was a driving force, alongside owner-manager Peter Dore-Smith in the growth and development of Kaffeine into the award winning establishment it is today. Following a brief time back in Australia, Catherine founded Curators Coffee Studio who helped turn city worker tastes toward the finer things in coffee and developed a unique cafe design signature. Her new establishment – her return to Fitzrovia – is a visual delight. I agree with the view my wife expressed that the coffeeshop has a more feminine design feel than the masculine straight lines favoured elsewhere. Aubergine tones set up stunning copper kettles, soft furnishings and artwork from the fabulous Tim Shaw who also works his artistry with the coffee here. Nude Espresso are perhaps the most improved London roaster in my view and this establishment acts as a spotlight exhibition for their best roasts.
A literal stone’s throw away is Workshop Coffee‘s fourth establishment which is a tiny space compared to some of their places. It has the feel of a traditional Italian espresso bar. And what a great bar to prop up. The Madagascan granite here is stunning-almost galactic patterns appearing in the stone. Coffee is made by, among others, Gareth, formerly of Prufrock. The seated area is reminiscent of a Victorian parlour room and a delightful place for a chat. We bumped into Jools Walker (Lady Velo) and Ian James on our first visit and the venue served well for a catch-up.
Fitzrovia seems ever able to cope with more cafes. You could shout from Workshop to the ever-brilliant and irreverent Mothers Milk to Kaffeine to The Attendant to Curators Coffee Gallery. And Lantana, TAP Coffee and Speakeasy are not far away!
Over in the city, Notes have opened their fourth indoor establishment. After a hugely successful coffee cart on the site (I heard rumours of huge amounts of daily coffee sales), Notes have opened a beautiful cafe at City Point in Moorgate. It’s already very popular and the design is aided by long arcs of glass and a wide open doorway. The bar is long and well staffed and the signature spider lamps make their presence felt – three of them here! Notes are roasting some excellent coffee now and this is unsurprising given Fabio Ferreira and especially Candice Madison are at the helm there. Great to see the city workers going for Nordic influenced light roasts in a big way.
The fourth opening of the week was Brooklyn Coffee. I have to admit I was weary to go after hearing so much about the design there. I thought it might be style over substance but it was nothing of the sort. It is incredibly stylish in ways others can describe far better then I but the place is about more than that. Set in Commercial Street in historic Spitalfields (read Spitalfields Life is you haven’t before) this one of the friendliest cafes I know. The Caravan coffee is superb here (far exceeding and indeed challenging my expectations) – very well made by barista Brian whether the espresso or the batch brew made on the large Fetco out back. Reina makes sure everyone is welcome and the place already has regulars, if you visit you might become one too. Seating is minimal but that just serves to make the bar and the coffee even more of a focus.
Also worth knowing is that the ever-innovative Dunne Frankowski are no longer at Sharps. Change is the only constant with those guys. We loved the place and especially TJ Phillipson’s barista work there. Michael Cleland has done a stellar job there recently and now the cafe has been taken over by David Robson (formerly of Association Coffee (where he was manager), Prufrock, Fernandez and Wells and others. We have followed David’s career since he first arrived in London and look forward to seeing what he will bring to the location.
So what’s coming soon? Well I am really looking forward to Carter’s new Daily Goods cafe in Camberwell now he is no longer in Kinoko Cycles. Then there is Lanark Coffee, a new Hackney venture featuring the sharp wit and considerable barista skills of Greg (ex Alchemy and Le Peche Mignon). There’s also a second Black Box, on Mare Street. To my shame I haven’t visited the first yet though I am very keen after an online interview I conducted with Black Box which I will publish once I finally make it there!
Then there’s the great news that more mainstream than mainstream publishers Dorling Kindersley have published a delightful looking book by Annette Moldvaer (Of Square Mile Coffee) – Coffee Obsession. I am sure this will be an essential read. Annette is the relatively uncelebrated key figure in the development of the UK third wave scene and is directly responsible for the success of James Hoffmann and Square Mile and the unique nature of the UK scene, influenced as it is by Scandinavian as well as other global roasters. The book looks as stunning to look at as it is informative.
Other stuff: Lantana (with ex-Milk Bar head barista Celeste Wong have switched to Alchemy. Ollie, the superb barista at the fine cafe White Mulberries (now serving Koppi as house espresso) has returned to New Zealand – all the best to his replacement. Decent Nude Espresso has been spotted (tasted) at Arepa and Co restaurant in Haggerston. Coffeesmiths has rebranded as Department of Coffee and Social Affairs and is working with the excellent Ben Presland (Tate) to choose beans for Ben to roast for them. Bartosz Ciepaj (Dose at Google Campus, formerly at Proud Archivist) has started Coffee Cupping UK with regular settings at Proud Archivist. Caravan have reportedly done extensive training with their bar staff and plan to offer a wide selection of coffees in the evenings. And finally an anonymous acerbic twitter account appeared: some might say a necessary balance to the mutual admiration of the London coffee scene but soon got pretty personal and insulting and perhaps lacked the subtlety of this one.
Great minds think alike, they say, well here’s Kate Beard’s excellent write-up summing up recent developments on the scene:
And here’s Chloe Callow’s recent piece on coffee in Fitzrovia:
Look out for my debut article for Caffeine magazine soon. as well as the usual New Kids review piece. I also have a few new reviews on Bluecrow media’s London’s Best Coffee app. My jazz trio return to Notes Wellington Street on July 16th. My coffee map will be updated soon!